The summer is the time to thoroughly enjoy what London has to offer – it’s the time to soak up as much of an outdoor life as possible before winter sets in and turns us into depressed eskimos once more. For me, this time is all about open air theatre. There is something magical about performances outdoors, in the rare green parts of the city with the possibility of being super-drenched by an angry cloud any minute. Opera Holland Park’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is one of those little gems you can find outdoors this summer, a truly enjoyable park adventure for little ones (and grown-ups too!).
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is an opera for young audience members, introducing them to the genre with one of the best-loved children’s stories of all times. Based on Lewis Carroll’s classic, the world of modern London echoes throughout as Alice’s city parents get stuck in the rain and take her and her horrible twin brothers to a pet store. For children today everything’s accessible, and as Alice’s brothers debate which animal to eat and torture, Alice bonds with the White Rabbit who takes her to Wonderland, a place of magic and madness. But Wonderland is run by the evil Queen of Hearts who can’t bake her own tarts but forces the people into labour instead. Alice then has to help her new friends avoid the guillotine and somehow find her own confidence before returning to the real world.
Will Todd’s score is wonderfully playful with its childlike wonder and contemporary links. The live orchestra sparks a bit of outdoor magic into the performance as we travel around the site, from one part of Wonderland to the next. Although it can be a bit of a pain for tired adults to move their cushions around, dragged along by excited children, our travel mirrors the madness and hectic exploration of Alice’s adventure, and Leslie Travers’ design is just gorgeous and a joy to explore.
The performances are engaging, fun and clear throughout and all singers take the leap and plunge into the wonderful craziness of the extravagant characters and moments. Fflur Wyn has an innocent charm about her as Alice and manages to really relate to the children as she sings her way through Wonderland. Keel Watson’s Caterpillar is hilariously sassy and his deep voice and blues melodies are a clever twist – a hungover, slightly high caterpillar is what comes to mind as an adult audience member and these little hidden jokes make the performance fun for both children and adults alike. Maud Millar’s Bottle and Duchess are both incredibly funny and sung with character, and all singers in this production really manage to find the life of the characters through the score – it makes the whole event highly engaging and entertaining.
Director Martin Duncan has managed to piece together one of the most performed children’s stories in an opera that shines new light on Alice’s adventures and makes us fall in love with not only opera and Alice’s world, but also outdoor performances. A must see for families this summer.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is playing at Opera Holland Park until 1 August. For tickets and more information see the Opera Holland Park website. Photo by Alex Brenner.